Prius assembly at Tsutsumi near Toyota City. (Photo: Graeme Roberts/just-auto.com)

Prius assembly at Tsutsumi near Toyota City. (Photo: Graeme Roberts/just-auto.com)

There were conflicting reports from Japan on Monday with some news agencies saying Toyota was about to slash production of its Prius hybrid, following well documented recall issues globally, while a local newspaper said production would be expanded. Toyota currently builds the hybrid in two plants in Aichi prefecture and assembles it from CKD kits at a joint venture in China.

The Nikkan Kogyo newspaper said demand for the Prius hybrid remained high despite the recall problem and added Toyota may start building the car at a third Japanese plant to shorten a fourth-month wait for deliveries. Additional production may start in September at the Motomachi plant in Toyota City, also in Aichi prefecture.

The Prius is currently made at Toyota’s Tsutsumi factory and at Toyota Auto Body’s Fujimatsu plant, in central Japan. The model has been Japan’s best-selling car for nine straight months following its Japanese market launch late last May.

Toyota did not confirm or deny the report but the Nikkan Kogyo said the Motomachi plant would build 6,000 cars a month, adding to current monthly production of 50,000 units.

Reuters, however, citing a company source, reported Toyota was cutting Prius output by 10% starting this month due to a slowdown in sales from a peak last year.

The unnamed source said production would drop to about 45,000 units from March. Toyota does not make production plans public.

Bloomberg News noted that, because of the time lag between orders and deliveries, registered sales of the Prius last month were unaffected by Toyota’s announcement to recall 223,068 of the hybrids in Japan to update anti-lock braking system software.

The Japan Automobile Dealers Association said there had been few cancellations of Prius orders while sales of the model have been boosted by government incentives.

Since last June Japanese consumers can apply for a JPY250,000 (US$2,800) subsidy if they scrap a car more than 13 years old to buy a new one, and JPY100,000 (US$1,110) for a new car purchased without scrapping an old one.

The programme, initially set to expire at the end of this month, has been extended for six months to the end of September.

Electric, hybrid, natural gas and some diesel vehicles also qualify for an exemption from the country’s weight and purchase taxes.